I’m going to try to take part in an offshoot Digital Writing Month activity this weekend called Twitter versus Zombies, which is described by some of the organizers as “epic zombiefied experiment in Twitter literacy, gamification, collaboration, and emergent learning.” I have no idea what will entail but I have wanted to dip my toes into this kind of emergent game and see how they unfold.
So, I am in.
And it made sense to have the kids in my comic in, too. Plus, there are plenty of little zombie-like creatures in the comic creator site that I use (Stripgenerator). In fact, it’s almost as if it were built for zombie comics. Hmmmm.
This month, as I am involved in Digital Writing Month, has me thinking about what I mean when I say Digital Writing. It’s not easy to define. Maybe you can help. I have started up a Thinglink image with a word cloud of terms related to digital writing, and I have begun to “tag” the image with ideas and media related to the terms. I’ve opened it up so that anyone can collaborate, so feel free to add your ideas to the mix, too. I’ve added assorted media — a podcast, an audio poem, a “choose your own adventure” video experiment, and more.
Yesterday, I wrote about using the Google Search Story creator. Then, in the afternoon, I stumbled on a link to yet another Google story tool — Google Docs Story Builder. it’s .. pretty neat. It “captures” a Google Doc in video time, although you are really writing the doc as a story, and not necessarily as a real collaboration. In honor of Digi the Duck, the mascot of Digital Writing Month, I created this short piece with the story tool in which Digi gets stuck in a Google Doc.
I’m not saying you need to investing in this Kickstarter effort, but just the concept of using books and reading as the inspiration for a game that crosses from a card game to a digital app has me intrigued.
It’s been fascinating to take part in the Digital Writing Month adventure, particularly as it has forced me to consider how my writing practices are impacted by technology. And that exploration has raised the question once again: is technology transforming and changing the way we write? I’ve noticed, as I follow others in Digiwrimo, that much of what we are calling digital writing is mostly blog posts — texts on a page. Or Tweets. Sure, a digital page, but still, I would not term it something all that different from traditional writing, except audience. So what does it mean to write digitally, then? I don’t have that answer, although the question intrigues me. But this morning, as I was trying to think about how I might compose with video, I returned to the Google Search Story site. Here, you can create a short digital story with search engine queries. I was curious about the process that I would put myself through to try to tell a story or make a point, with limited text and with the video coming from somewhere else. In other words, I had less agency as a writer than I would have liked. (And, admittedly, I was contributing to Google’s bottom line by making a video with its search engine).
Here’s what I noticed as I was creating a search story about Digital Writing Month and the act of writing digitally: I found myself in a constant wrestling match with Google. You’d think it simple enough: write five or six search queries and let Google do the rest. But Google wasn’t doing what I wanted — its search results were different from my vision. I tweaked words. I revamped phrases. I worked harder on those five search phrases than I am working on this reflection piece. Seriously.
And I am still not satisfied, and it made me think about the compromises we make with technology when we compose with the tools available. Yes, it would be nice if we were all programmers with enough coding expertise to create our own tools for our own purposes, but most of us are not. I’m not. What I am left with is this feeling that while technology allows me to stretch in new directions, it also hinders my sense of expression. And I can’t shake the feeling that we are not yet close to the promise of being real digital writers, when all of the agency of expression is in our own hands.
When we can write what we want to write, and say what we want to say, in a medium of our choice and with all the flexibility we desire, I’ll be doing a happy dance as a digital writer. Until then, I push as far as I can, and hope that I can live with the sense of compromise that often is the result of the conversations between me, the writer, and the various tools of technology that are at my disposal.
Peace (in pushing boundaries),
PS — I want to apologize for putting my own book — Teaching the New Writing — into my search story but it seemed pertinent. Right? Well, I was also using Google for my own aims there, too. If they can monetize my story through my use of its search engine, I might as well turn it back on them and use their search engine to publicize our book.
I don’t think its a secret here that I really found the website, InstaGrok, extremely helpful for my students as they did research for a project this year. InstaGrok allows students to channel their research, take notes right inside the search engine, investigate multmedia elements, and stay focused on a topic. But I was a bit surprised the other day when the folks from InstaGrok let me know that my students had done the most searching on the site for the month of October.
We conducted about 1,850 search queries.
They sent along the nice certificate, which I put on our class website (and which I realize is a nice way for them to advertise their site, but so be it — I’ll repeat how useful I find it for my students as researchers), and my students were quite proud of themselves, even though I reminded them that quality always trumps quantity. But in looking at their accounts (which one can do as a teacher), I saw most of the gathering of information was directly related to their research projects.
There was someone in my twitter stream of folks participating in Digital Writing Month who was wondering how to merge that challenge with the National Novel Writing Month, and I whimsically suggested that they just make their novel just one huge hyperlink, and cover both challenges with one piece of writing.
It would work, right? (Although this gets to another post on another day about what digital writing is and should be, and all of that)
Then, I got to thinking about what link would you make a piece of writing like that lead to? In the case of my comic, Dave just wants to have fun.
Ok — so, not a real hack of the Digital Writing Month website. But still … hacking and remixing are modern literacy skills, right? Check out what I did with Mozilla’s xRay Goggles tool that allows you to revamp and remix websites. You can’t yet publish the changes (that seems to be coming soon, though), so I had to take a screenshot of my hack and upload it as an image.
See the larger versions of the hacked page if you want a closer look at how I, uh, tweaked the page. I was poking fun at what we are up to this month (and the duck … you know, the duck is fair game in a hack).
See what my friend, Rafi Santo, has to say about hacking as a way to understand content, and how remixing what we find gives us more agency as writers/composers, and the strong connections these skills have to authentic youth literacies. I’m still investigating. You should be, too.
My 8 year old and I made a short claymation video (13 seconds!) this morning, using some new software (Smoovie) on our Mac. I’m moving away from my old freeware on our aging PC laptop that works but can get tricky (you shoot in one software and then need to shift to another, and it can be choppy at times). Although it cost me a bit ($30), Smoovie was simple to learn and easy to use and quickly uploaded to YouTube (and it seems like there is an iPad version). Already, my son is curious about number of views he is going to get.